Sadly this book is out of print and completely unavailable, which is a shame (the one copy I could find for sale is $87, so unless you’re so moved by my review that you’re willing to pay that, this is out of reach for most people). I luckily got this copy back when it first came out in 2006 and it’s a cult classic for me that I re-read every few years. Project X Challengers: Cup Noodle tells the dramatic story of how Cup Noodle was developed. We learn about the high stakes — the company on the brink of financial ruin! Young engineers desperate for raises trying to do the impossible and create an entirely new product! — and then the manga walks us through the process of how Cup Noodle was created. I think why I enjoy this manga so much is because of how dramatic it is. The tension of each step in the process, from making the cup itself to figuring out how to get the right kind of shrimp, is expertly conveyed through the art, and there are a ton of problems I never would have thought of that they have to beat.
The book also gets across the personality of each member of the design/engineering team, and succeeds in making you care whether or not they succeed. Even the long-suffering wife of one of the men gets her moment to shine, as she learns that the reason he’s not eating her dinners is because of all the servings of noodles he has to taste-test at work. Her solution is to give him a variety of small dishes, and the afterward says she has continued this tactic until today! Every problem in the book is overcome through hard work and innovation, which makes this an enjoyable and interesting read. The back of the book includes pictures of everyone and the events, and includes a timeline of the history of Nissin Foods and societal and cultural events.
My only regret is that I didn’t get the histories of 7-11 and the Datsun Fairlady Z that DMP published at the same time, because they’re out of my grasp now. The moral of the story is to get the manga you want if it’s in print!